Testimonies from recipients of Disaster Aid

The broad scale of assistance given through the EYN Disaster Response Ministry in partnership with Church of the Brethren and Mission 21 includes: food, home repairs, trauma workshops, widows livelihood development, and fruit trees planted at a relocation center.

Here are some of the testimonies of the beneficiaries.

Woman receives food assistance for her family

Food – Sabastine remarked, “We thank God and thank EYN for assisting us with food items as we have been away from our homes for a long time. This food with benefit 6 of my family members.” Another person responded with thanks saying,  We are in a difficult situation especially in this season before the harvest.”



Awa’s home

Awa‘s two room home was re- roofed and she was very grateful but also stated that only women sleep in the houses. The men sleep in hiding in the bush due to the fear of continued attacks at night.



Widow at livelihood seminar

A seminar was held for widows with children. 101 widows from 19 districts were trained in income generation and given seed money to start their own businesses. Victoria, a mother of five testified, “God is indeed the husband of the widows and that He will come to the aid of those who diligently seek him.” Another mother of six, Adama, had been crying before the start of the seminar because her farm was in great need of fertilizer to insure a good harvest to feed her family. She was shocked when she received the money and said, “God still works miracles.” The seminar was a great encouragement to all the widows reminding them that are not limited in what they can do. The money given to start businesses was very much appreciated.

Testimonies continue to come in from the Trauma Workshops held around the northeast. The workshops span three days and are typically conducted for 30-35 participants. Each workshop has a tremendous impact on the participants. Here are some of their stories.

Participants of a Trauma Workshop

Mary –  I was abducted by Boko Haram from Bazza to Gulak where we were kept for many months. My only daughter was taken away from me by them up to now, I cant sleep and every night is a night mare. In addition there were false accusation over cloth Boko Haram gave us during captivity, people said that I stole it in the community after returning. But after the second day things began to change for my good. The woman who accused me  of stealing the cloth, reconciled with me by coming to my shop for sewing, I am able to speak and be heard among my people for the first time in 4 years. I have learnt to forgive all. This is my happiest moment and I am healed completely thank you!

Trauma Workshop

Jummai – Since Boko Haram killed my Beloved Husband I sincerely became traumatized in life for about 5 years. From this workshop my life is getting better now, my trauma has reduced,  thank you very much for this workshop.

Chinamu – I came here with heavy heart due to trauma, but after I understand the importance of forgiveness. I learned to forgive people who offend me, from this workshop I will go and reconcile with my neighbor so that I can have sound sleep.

We continue to pray for Northeast Nigeria, for those who have suffered from the insurgency and for the Disaster Ministry team as they bring assistance and healing.

“God’s time is always near”: Thoughts from the African American Museum

The National Museum of African American History and Culture in Washington, D.C.

“God’s time is always near.
He gave me my strength,
and He set the North star in the heavens;
He meant I should be free.”
—Harriet Tubman, 1859

The path through the museum really begins outside, waiting in line with hopeful tourists and Washington, D.C., residents in the heat and humidity to receive midday tickets into the newest Smithsonian: the National Museum of African American History and Culture. Its grand opening was back in September of 2016 and yet it’s still flooded with people. Inside, another line into the exhibition itself greets attendees—a testament to how many people surge into the museum on a daily basis.

The museum features more contemporary cultural figures and movements as well as important parts of history.

The exhibition begins underground, solemnly reflecting the beginnings of many slaves’ journeys in the bowels of a slave ship. The hallway is dark and lit only by the lights of the text and artifacts’ spotlights. Museum-goers wind their way through history, from the roots of African and European trade and the formation of the concept of race, through the American Revolution and slave revolts, and into the Civil Rights Movement and beyond, recognizing contemporary cultural figures and topics.

“This trade,
so beneficial to the Adventurers,
and important to the State;
a Trade sanctioned by the Clergy,
supported by the Judges,
and authorized by the laws.”
—Robert Norris, 1788

There’s more text and information than anyone could read in a reasonable amount of time, but everyone is trying to absorb as much as possible, surrounded by stories of prominent black Americans both remembered and forgotten:

The story of Belinda, an enslaved woman who petitioned the Massachusetts legislature in 1783 for her freedom, one of the first records of reparations from enslavement.

A sack given from mother Rose to daughter Ashley before she was sold away, pecans and a lock of hair placed inside, passed along with the promise that it was filled with love.

The Point of Pines Cabin, which stood in South Carolina from 1853 to 2013—a shelter, a home, a gathering place. The cabin still didn’t protect slaves from the assault of the slaveowners.

One wall in the museum is covered in the text of newspaper advertisements for slaves.

One wall features a few photos and artifacts from slave markets and, if you look closely, you can see the text of advertisements for slaves—countless names—covering the wall.

Processing this history reminds us what injustice and cruelty has looked like in the past and helps us to understand what it looks like today. This is the history that makes up our country’s roots, and untangling them takes specific and careful work—work that was begun by hundreds of thousands of black Americans long before the museum was built.

“We need the storm,
the whirlwind, and the earthquake …
the hypocrisy of the nation must be exposed;
and its crimes … denounced.”
—Frederick Douglass, 1852

So where have Brethren stood amid these issues? What did it mean to be Brethren in this time of turmoil and cruelty in our country?

The Brethren Encyclopedia entry on slavery details that “Annual Meeting denied the legitimacy of owning slaves and insisted that any Brethren holding them must be set free in order to be a member in good standing (1797-1865). […] During the Civil War, Annual Meeting decisions dealt firmly with any minister who defended slavery. In response to the obvious problem of emancipating slaves in a slave state, Annual Meeting in 1854 reiterated that ‘under no circumstance can slavery be admitted into the church.’”

On a national level, the Brethren took a clear stance against slavery, but issues with individual members regarding slaves arose. According to 1962 Sidelights on Brethren History article:

“In the Valley there were some members of the Brethren Church who, though not owning slaves, thought that it was permissible to hire them from those who did own them. Yet from the earliest date the most of the Brethren stood uncompromisingly in opposition to this traffic in human lives in whatever form it took. The Roanoke Annual Conference said in answer to the above-mentioned query that ‘it would be best for a follower of Jesus Christ to have nothing at all to do with slavery.'”

This certainly wasn’t the only instance like this in the church, and the Brethren at Annual Meeting and at regional conferences addressed a number of problems with church members in regards to slavery at the time of the Civil War. The article goes on to say:

“In spite of all that was done by Annual Conference and by council meetings, the matter continued to disturb the Brethren as late as 1863, when a query came to the Annual Conference held in the Clover Creek church in Blair County, Pennsylvania. […] After prayerful consideration the following decision was given: “In as much as the Brethren always believed, and believe yet, that slavery is a great evil, and contrary to the doctrine of Christ, we consider it utterly wrong for a brother to justify slavery either in public or in private, and that he should be admonished, and if obstinate, shall be dealt with according to Matt. 18. […]  Slavery was ended nearly a hundred years ago, by means which the Brethren could neither approve nor support. During the intervening century the Negro has demonstrated to the world – with outstanding proof such as Booker T. Washington, George Washington Carver, Martin Luther King, and Ralph Bunche – his basic equality with the white man. On their part, the Brethren still have a largely unused opportunity to show the colored people of the nation that their concern for them is one of deep-rooted, genuine brotherly love and goodwill.”

“We do not wish to make you angry,
but … consider how hateful slavery is
in the sight of God.”
—Absalom Jones and Richard Allen, 1794

What does this history mean for us now? Clearly, the conversation around race and blackness has changed quite a bit since slavery, and even since the Civil Rights movement. We cannot fall back on our historical opposition to slavery and assume that carries us into current day. Our job as the church to call out injustice looks different now, and these issues are many-layered and complex.

After making their way through the narrow halls about the foundations of slavery, visitors spill out into a room telling the stories of black people during the American Revolution.

As one plaque in the museum reads, “The paradox of the American Revolution—the fight for liberty in an era of widespread slavery—is embedded in the foundations of the United States. The tension between slavery and freedom—who belongs and who is excluded—resonates through the nation’s history and spurs the American people to wrestle constantly with building ‘a more perfect Union.’ This paradox was embedded in national institutions that are still vital today.” We must take a hard look at our institutions, especially the church, if we seek to bring God’s justice to our world.

The 1991 Annual Conference Report on Brethren and Black Americans states:

“Because racism is built into our way of life, it is extremely difficult to unmask it and honestly face the radical changes that need to be made in ourselves and our institutions if it is to be eradicated. Members of the Church of the Brethren face the subtle temptation of thinking that because there are not many black Americans in the denomination, or because many of us do not live in physical proximity to black people, that the problem of racism is not our concern. Nothing could be further from the truth. Many of us benefit from racist practices, without being direct participants, because of decisions and policies already in place in our religious, economic, and political institutions.”

Despite the 26-year gap since this report, this statement still rings true. It still challenges us to recognize our prejudices and demand justice in an unjust society—a society wrought with the mass incarceration of black and Hispanic people; a society in which urban areas hard-hit by poverty are largely minority communities; a society with a resurgence in the visibility of white supremacy and hate groups.

The first step is simply listening to people of color talk about their experiences, without feeling the need to argue or counter their stories. Experiences cannot be false.

However, listening and empathizing aren’t enough. The second step is moving to immediate action, especially in response to violent racist attacks and the actions of hate and white supremacist groups.

The reminders of what this dangerous hatred fuels and leads to is not only in our museums and memorials, but now in current news headlines. The National Museum of African American History and Culture should not simply be seen as a home for dusty relics of the past, but as the watchful eyes of history looking at how we respond to the daily infringements on civil rights that occur all around us.

“Though our bodies
differ in color from yours;
yet our souls are similar
in desire for freedom.”
—Vox Africanorum,
Maryland Gazette, 1783

A corner of the museum where visitors are invited to “share their story.”

Here’s an idea from the museum: Tucked off to the side in a couple corridors leading to the next level, rooms stand with the door aglow and an “In Session” sign lit up—it asks passersby to “share your story.”

How can we reach out to people sharing their stories? How can we listen to our brothers and sisters in our churches and in our midst whose words have fallen on deaf ears?

A good place to start is the resources from Intercultural Ministries, the Office of Public Witness, and On Earth Peace’s Racial Justice initiative. But perhaps we need to think through more concrete processes the church can develop to to commit to dismantling racist structures.

When Harriet Tubman said, “God’s time is always near” in 1859, it was a call to action for that day and a resounding vision for the future. We have done good work in the past. It is not enough. We must do better work now in order to bring God’s time to earth.

“Let us all unite, and … declare
that we will not leave our own country …
this is our … country; …our forefathers have
planted trees in America for us
and we intend to stay and eat the fruit.”
—Peter Osborne, 1832

Dr. Rebecca Dali named for Sergio Viera De Mello Award

What is the Sergio Vieira de Mello Award?

Sergio Vieira de Mello was a man with a long career in the United Nations. He was deeply involved with humanitarian issues and a strong supporter of those working to achieve peace in conflicts and war situations around the globe.  The Foundation started in his name has decided to give an award every two years. The award is intended to draw world attention to the unnoticed efforts made by an individual, group or an organization that has done something special and unique to reconcile people and parties in conflict. Candidates must be authentic, verifiable, community-based entities operating in areas of conflict and as such could be refugees, internally displaced persons or persons affected by conflict. The 2017 Award is being given to Dr. Rebecca Dali and her Non-profit agency, Center for Caring, Empowerment and Peace Initiative (CCEPI). 

Partner Profile

Church of the Brethren began working with Dr. Rebecca Dali, Executive Director of Center for Caring Empowerment and Peace Initiative (CCEPI), in January of 2014. Missionaries from the United States church, Carl and Roxane Hill, were teaching with Dr. Rebecca in Nigeria when she began distributing food and clothing to displaced persons living around Kulp Bible College.

Providing prayer and support for Nigeria at Annual Conference 2014

In the summer of 2014, Dr. Rebecca was a guest representing the Nigerian church, Ekklesiyar Yan’uwa a Nigeria (EYN), at Annual Conference of the U.S. Church of the Brethren.  She spoke powerfully about the plight of her fellow Nigerians and the crisis in Nigeria. Following her spirit filled plea, the Church of the Brethren pledged support and aid to  the Nigerian church, NGO’s working in Nigeria (like CCEPI), and those affected by the violence in Northeast Nigeria.

When EYN headquarters was overrun by Boko Haram in October of 2014, church leadership was relocated to Jos.  Dr. Rebecca accompanied her husband, Samuel Dali, then EYN President and she immediately began helping those displaced. A much-needed food distribution was held at the EYN Annex Headquarters in Jos.

Food Distribution in November 2014

Early in the Crisis, CCEPI concentrated on providing food and household supplies. Soon it was evident that there was a great need for the numerous widows and orphans created by the violent crisis. Under Dr. Rebecca’s leadership, CCEPI has created three Skills Acquisition Centers that teach a skill and provide each participant with the materials to start their own business. Through her organization, Dr Rebecca has also provided trauma healing, housing repairs, education for orphans, livestock for widows and moral support to those in need.

Wall of Healing displayed in Tampa Florida


Dr. Rebecca and CCEPI have been tireless in collecting data from the families affected by the violence. Although this is time consuming, it helps tell the full story of this crisis and honors the dead and their families. At the 2015 Church of the Brethren’s Annual Conference in Tampa, Florida, Dr. Rebecca’s data was displayed as a “Wall of Healing”. This wall consisted of 17 large banners with the names of over 10,000 victims of the violence sweeping through Northeast Nigeria.

Graduation at one of the Skill Acquisition Centers

Dr. Rebecca has been able to mobilize and organize CCEPI to provide food and supplies to the most vulnerable often at great personal risk. Her passion, and the quality of her work has attracted the attention and support of numerous sponsors to continue and expand these efforts. Her boundless energy and tireless work alongside her staff has provided assistance to men, women, children, Muslims, Christians, and especially widows and orphans. It is a privilege for Church of the Brethren to be in partnership with Dr. Rebecca and her outstanding organization as she pours her life into helping her fellow countrymen during this challenging time.


Youth Peace Travel Team 2016 – Orientations!

YPTT 2016 and their mentors. From L to right, back row: Audrey Hollenberg-Duffey, Sarah Neher, Chelsea Goss, Dana Cassell. Front row, L to R: Phoebe Hart, Sara White, Kiana Simonson, and Jenna Walmer.

Hello friends! The 2016 Youth Peace Travel Team is so excited to start sharing our experience with y’all this summer! We just finished up our Ministry Summer Service (MSS) training and are enjoying the first week of camp. We want to introduce ourselves a little bit and get y’all acquainted to the blog again for the summer. Each week there will be an introduction about where we are and each team member will share a little bit about their favorite experience that week.

Hello everyone! At MSS, I really enjoyed reconnecting with old friends and creating new friendships. I appreciated the time shared laughing in community, but also the spiritual discussions we had through lectio divina, examen, and other lessons throughout the week. My favorite moment during training was when we pulled into the hotel parking lot and “Don’t Stop Believing’ by Journey came on the radio and we all sang it at the top of our lungs.
Can’t wait to share more exciting experiences throughout the summer!

Peace, Love, and Pineapples, Jenna

Greetings friends! We have finished up training and arrived at our first camp. Training was full of connection, community, learning, and love. I am always awestruck by the number of gifts the young adults of the church bring when we gather. I feel beyond blessed to be supported by such grace and sophistication. The Youth Peace Travel Team (YPTT) was able to spend time with representatives from On Earth Peace, Outdoor ministries, Church of the Brethren, and Bethany Theological Seminary. Learning more in-depth information about the organizations and spending time with the faces of each extension of the church was an enriching experience. Exploring our call to peace and service with those of us a little older and wiser was an experience that I will be able to carry with me in my pocket as the team moves forward. The team then joined with fellow MSS interns to build a community of those serving and exploring vocation this summer. The week was filled with laughter and building friendships that we will also carry with us as we travel around the country this summer.

I am thankful for all of the learning we have done so far. But above all, I am thankful for the love that surrounds us as the YPTT, as members of the church, as friends, and as children of God. We are blessed. We are members of one family.

Blessings, Kiana

Greetings all! Over the past two weeks of training I have been blessed to get to know and share many growth experiences with my fellow YPTT members and Ministry Summer Service interns. Particular special for me was the opportunity for us all to plan and lead the Wednesday morning chapel service for those in the Elgin offices. We chose the theme of hope, reading from Romans 8: 22-28. As I head out this summer, I am hopeful for the opportunity to connect with Brethren from around the country, united by our common call to follow the life of Jesus. In visiting the offices in Elgin as well as Bethany Theological Seminary, I found a special sense of connectedness and support as we all head out on this journey together. I hope that we can share this spirit of community, and through it Christ’s spirit of peace, with all of the campers we encounter this summer.

In peace, Sara

Hey, y’all! I am so excited to be at our first camp. Training has been so great, both at YPTT orientation and MSS orientation. At Bethany Theological Seminary, I really enjoyed learning from professors and eating dinner with church leaders and friends of the Youth Peace Travel Team. We had three really great leaders for the week – Bekah, Marie, and Nate. They all had a lot of good advice and wisdom to share.
When that was over, we went to Ministry Summer Service orientation in Elgin, at the main offices of the Church of the Brethren. My favorite part of training was, again, getting to eat dinner with different people around the area. One night we met some amazing local leaders in the church and got to have a sort of “panel” with them. Though the invite wasn’t exclusively given to women, the leaders in attendance were all amazingly inspiring female pastors and leaders in the church, and hearing about their journeys was a wonderful experience. I also really loved talking with my mentor throughout training, because I got to learn a little about her time on YPTT and we got to discuss what it might be like this summer. I’m pumped to see what the rest of the summer holds!


2 visits to Chibok – 50 years apart

Chibok has always been a difficult place to get to. Here are stories of two journeys to Chibok 50 years apart.

Ralph Royer (2003 visit to Nigeria)

Ralph Royer (2003 visit to Nigeria)

 Story #1 Chibok Visit – A trip to Remember

(recalled by Ralph Royer – long time missionary in Nigeria, Supervisor of the 40 Church of the Brethren Elementary Schools during the 1960’s)

In the early 1960s the government of northern Nigeria announced a desire to transfer primary schools, both mission and native schools, to what were called Local Education Authorities (LEA). There being only a few non native schools in Borno LEA made it a good place to start. I made several trips to Maiduguri to help work out some of the details to transfer our three schools in Borno LEA – Chibok, Kaurwatikari and Mbalala. It was decided to do the transfer in 1963 and I felt the schools and teachers needed to know this as ownership and employment etc was to transfer to the LEA.

Current road to Chibok

Current road to Chibok

Usually Chibok was cut off by road from July to October, but this was August so I decided to take a small 50cc motorcycle from Lassa for the thirty miles to Chibok. At the Musa stream I had to get men to help hoist it over our heads to cross the stream. One of the shorter men stepped in a hole and briefly disappeared below the surface. When I was within seven miles of Chibok, I came to a large flowing stream at a spot I knew to be only a low area with an occasional mud puddle. Now it flowed two hundred feet across. I had already had help several times crossing streams, so seeing no around, I parked my moped by a tree and started walking in water up to my chest. A few miles on I met some Fulani cattle herders and their dog, but we could not converse and we each went on. After separating some distance, I heard a funny sound and turned around to see their dog really bearing down on me. I reached at it and the dog veered off, but it raised the hair on my neck and added to the seriousness of the whole situation with water everywhere. As I approached the last stream just behind the mission station, I began to wonder where the station was. There was nothing but water as far as I could see. A slight movement ahead caught my eye, it was a woman climbing into the branches of a tree. I watched as she went through to the other side and down holding onto small trees as she went forward. I followed and later found that this tree grew in the middle of the stream and we had crossed the stream where it was ten feet deep and three feet beyond each bank.

It was a very surprised Grace Brumbaugh who met me when I arrived at her house! They had four and a half inches of rain that afternoon and many mud houses had collapsed. It was also an appreciative group of teachers to whom I explained the upcoming changes in the running of the schools.

Over the next several years we arranged for the transfer of all of our forty-two schools. Informing these teachers required less “heroism”!

School from which the "Chibok girls" were abducted

School from which the “Chibok girls” were abducted

Story # 2 My Wilderness Journey To Land Of Chibok (An excerpt)

By Naija247news Posted In Crime & Investigative Reports

(A journalist tells of his trip to Chibok some time after Boko Haram had captured 276 girls)



The road to Chibok is bad and full of uncertainty; checking points everywhere mounted by vigilante group. Bombed cars, trucks and buses abound on the road to Chibok. Burnt houses and hot. Several villages sacked by the insurgents whose inhabitants now live under trees with their children begging for aid from travelers. Abandoned Police Posts that had received the insurgents’ baptism of fire! The Damboa-Chibok Road is particularly very bad. The major road has been taking over by flood. Drivers now drive through the desert forest like antelopes sneaking to avoid wet bushes from touching them. Some have been killed on the road by the insurgents and many escaped with varying degrees of gunshots injuries. Pastor Manasseh for instance, showed me injuries he escaped with on this road. At some checking points mounted by policemen and soldiers passengers are asked to step out of the car and walk through the check point.

We continue to remember those abducted by the Boko Haram and pray for their safe return.

Destroyed Chibok school

Destroyed Chibok school


Responses to Care for the Displaced around Yola

By Peggy Gish (Volunteer in Nigeria)

Vinikiling campI had been taken to pieces of land being developed into a settlement of small houses for the Nigerian people displaced by the violence of Boko Haram, and a camp of newly constructed buildings where families will start moving into in three weeks. Both sites were nestled in among trees and brush, on the edge of Abuja. I had heard about displaced families crowding into homes of relatives or fellow church members. Today, however, we were visiting five IDP camps around the city of Yola, considered a safe area, three hours south by car from the villages and towns from which these people had fled.

At one site, in a fenced in area of buildings right in the city, owned by a private resident, 200 mostly women and children, milled around a large yard. In another, managed by a government agency, which felt more discouraging to me, about 4,000 people were packed into large halls in barracks at a former military site, some for women and some for men. Many of the people sat and lay around listless in the shade or inside buildings, in the 115 degree (F) heat, while flies buzzed around. Residents on cooking duty, stirred large pots of mush and stew for their communal meal. At a third camp, workers were in the midst of a boisterous game with the children.

This was in contrast to a small camp in a rural area outside the city where families had constructed their own small, traditional dwellings out of reeds and grasses. Men sat around under shady trees. Children played around or gathered around a water pump helping pump water for other residents. Here, life was very basic and hard, but allowed more privacy and normalcy of daily life.

Our last stop was at an EYN (Nigerian Brethren) Church on the edge of Yola, organized and developed by EYN, but for people from various church backgrounds. Over a thousand people live on the grounds in tents. Leaders described their organized children’s activities, nutrition and economic training programs for women, and medicine dispensary, assisted by the International Rescue Committee (IRC). As in other camps, they received some of their food and supplies from Nigerian and international agencies. Playful children crowded around us eager for any attention we might give them. kids in campIMG_5165

There were stark contrasts to conditions and settings, yet all were forms of the wider community responding to the needs of tens of thousands of people who had suddenly fled their homes in fear during the past year. People have been torn away from their homes, school, and work, but are being cared for, until they are able to face the challenges of returning and rebuilding their lives and communities.

The Story of Lami

by Rhoda Maina (A member of the Nigeria Disaster Team)

I met Lami during the relief distribution exercise at Uba last week. She received food and clothing as part of the EYN (Ekklesiyar Yan’uwa a Nigeria) effort.

Her Story

Lami is a 27 year old widow that lost her husband to Boko haram in February 2015. She is from my village (Lassa). As a matter of fact, they stayed in the same neighborhood with my parents before the dreaded attack. Lami and her late husband (Ujulu) and their three children were able to run to a nearby community for safety. However people in that community were also at risk because of the presence of Boko Haram in the area. After a few days, Ujulu’s elder brother, (Bitrus) who lives in Maiduguri sent a message to Ujulu that he should contact him. Bitrus had made arrangements for the family to leave that community and travel to Maiduguri.

On that fateful day, narrated Lami, ‘’My husband took a motor cycle and told me to make sure I stayed safe. He was going to look for a place where he could access the phone network to call his brother. It was after two days without his return that I knew what I greatly feared had happened.”

Ujulu met Boko Haram members on his way to the community called Sabongari. There they tied his hands behind his back and slit his throat, at least that was what Lami said with a very emotional voice.

 Ujulu burial:

Lami continued, ‘’Before I got the information, his friends in that community had already identified his body but could only dig a shallow grave. We went back for a proper burial and while they were burying him I hid myself in a bushy area to act as their lookout in case any Boko Haram were passing.’’

 How is Lami coping?

“All hope was lost after the death of my husband. My children became sick and always asked when their father was coming home. I would look at them with tearful eyes and tell them that they would see him one day.  However, in March, I attended a trauma healing workshop organized by an EYN pastor here in Uba.  There I received encouragement and strength from the teaching. Many other women shared stories sadder than mine. Since then, I have picked up the courage to be strong and take care of my kids and see what God will do.’’

Three easy ways to get your church online

Before pursuing any of these options, you need a church e-mail address. You can get one for free at  GoogleYahooOutlook or other sites. At least three people should have the user name and password for the e-mail, and it should be checked regularly. Be sure to send the e-mail address to the main Church of the Brethren office.

Set up a website

Oakton Church of the Brethren website

Oakton Church of the Brethren website

There are a number of free options, such as https://wordpress.com/ or http://www.weebly.com/ or http://www.wix.com/ It simply takes someone with a few computer skills (not a trained technical person) to create a site with these services.

If you use these sites, your URL (web address) would have the site name in it, such as churchname.wordpress.com. If you want to have your own URL without the site name (something like churchname.org), you need to get a “domain name.” The cost varies, but averages around $15/year, with discounts for purchasing multiple years. The registration must be renewed at the end of the time or you lose it. You do not have to buy a domain name to have a website—but your own web address might be simpler for people to remember. The web site would be the same in either case; only the address would be different.

Create a Facebook page

Facebook automatically generates a page for any business or organization it finds. Find yours by searching within Facebook. Someone can go in and edit this profile, adding photos, service information and so forth. You can use this as your web page if you like. However, you do not have complete control since the page is “owned” by Facebook.

A better bet is to create your own church Facebook page. Go to https://www.facebook.com/pages/create and follow instructions from there. Before doing this, decide on a page name since you can only change it once.

Once you have a church Facebook page, you can click the “duplicate page” on Facebook’s automated listing so that the new one will replace their auto-generated one.

You may want to have both a public page for people to find you and a private group (for group members only) to share prayer requests within the congregation. That is up to you!

Here are some tips for using Facebook: http://network.crcna.org/church-web/6-simple-ways-your-church-can-use-facebook-better

Claim your Google listing
Another free way to have a better web presence is to claim your Google listing. Google makes a listing for all businesses it finds. Search for your church, then click “Manage this page.” You can upload photos, service times and so forth. This shows right away for anyone searching via Google. You will have to sign in to Google to manage it. (Use a church or generic e-mail address, not someone’s personal e-mail address for this).

It’s a great idea for all churches to do this so that your service times and other crucial facts show. However, it’s better not to do it if your schedule varies and no one will remember to update the Google listing!

Three essential points

  1. Consider what are the best things about your church, then put them on the home page or feature them in photos on Google or Facebook. We often say our people are the best thing, then we display pictures of an empty building. Why not offer photos of community service activities, popular church events, or some of that great food we’re known for? It may still be a good idea to include photos of the church building alongside the directions or address so that people know what to look for when they visit.
    Photo note: Be sure to ask permission before using photos of people – and don’t list names or identifying details when displaying photos of children.
  2. Make sure at least 3 people have access to the site and can make updates. Create the site using a church or generic e-mail address rather than someone’s personal e-mail (what if they move?)
  3. Don’t offer features you will not be able to keep up. For instance, it’s better not to have a “News” page than to have “news” that is several years old. Remember that it’s easy to start things, but hard to maintain them.

Be sure to send your updated contact information to the main Church of the Brethren office. The Find a Church page sees heavy use!

How has your church used technology? Do you have tips to share with others?  

Too Much Armor, Too Little Brain: The Risks of Political Advocacy & the Hope Our God Offers

Working for peace in Washington often feels like a losing battle, but perhaps the problem is that we often view the work of peace through a combative lens. Whether the issue is gun violence, drones, or any other issue of militarism, we often talk of “fighting back” against these issues and eventually building up enough support to “defeat our opposition”. But what if this paradigm is limiting our imagination and holding us back from working for and embodying Christ’s transformative kingdom?

I reflected on this tension after attending a conference held at the United States Institute of Peace that covered the Humanitarian Impact of Nuclear Weapons. There were speakers from Jewish, Christian, Muslim, and Buddhist backgrounds, and their testimonies and stories of the religious community’s advocacy were very compelling and in stark contrast to the message of perhaps the most anticipated speaker at the event, Anita Friedt, who works for the State Department on US Nuclear Policy.

Mrs. Friedt’s speech was a fairly typical DC speech that was short on concrete ideas or promises and chock full of vague legalese that boiled down to an appreciation of the work the religious community does to make the world safe from nuclear weapons, while simultaneously patting us on the head to let us know that the political reality was much more complicated. She even tried to reassure us that the United States would never consider using these weapons except in the most extreme circumstances, but neglected to enlighten us as to what those circumstances might look like.

My friend and colleague, Rev. Michael Neuroth summed up many of our reactions to Mrs. Friedt’s remarks by ending his subsequent presentation with a quote from longtime peace activist Rev. William Sloane Coffin who once said, “We are beginning to resemble extinct dinosaurs who suffered from too much armor and too little brain”.

We all approvingly applauded the succinct remark, but if we are not careful, the Church’s political advocacy and activism can become confined by this same armor employed by Mrs. Friedt. When the real life problems of our communities and world become “issues” we talk about abstractly, we can speak and act on them divorced from their context and the people actually affected. To do this betrays not only the people affected but also our vocation as the Church.

When we engage in this manner, we’ve allowed our own armor to shroud and influence our vision to the point that we cannot even begin to imagine a world that is wildly different and more restorative than the reality we currently inhabit. Scholar and theologian Walter Brueggemann speaks about this tension at length in his book the Prophetic Imagination. In our line of work, we often like to talk about hope and peace in our world, but Brueggemann rightly reminds us that these words mean nothing out of their context:

“Hope expressed only in the present tense will no doubt be co-opted by the managers of this age…Therefore the symbols of hope cannot be general and universal but must be those that have been known concretely in this particular history…The memory of this community begins in God’s promissory address to the darkness of chaos, to barren Sarah, and to oppressed Egyptian slaves. The speech of God is first about an alternative future. (The Prophetic Imagination, pg. 64)

We are not a people without a history and we are not a people without a God. We know and believe that the status quo is not the best we can hope for because we have this unique story of God’s freedom and liberation working in the world. The same spirit in the “Cloud by Day/Fire by Night” that guided the Israelites out of the wilderness continues to pull us forward today into new possibilities of liberation and reconciliation.

Francisco de Goya's "Fire By Night"

Francisco de Goya’s “Fire By Night”

To speak of such things in our society makes us sound strange and unfamiliar, but speaking about them also gives us a clinging hope that feels unwarranted and yet incredibly necessary

Especially necessary when we’re confronted with inexplicable madness like the kidnapping of the Nigerian girls in Chibok. To respond with disembodied calls for peace and hope in Nigeria from a cozy office in Washington feels inadequate at best and totally disingenuous at worst. But when we ground our work in communion and solidarity with our Nigerian sisters and brothers, we can once again plug back into our story and remind ourselves of who we are and whose we are.

Only when grounded in this context can we faithfully speak an energizing word of hope, advocate for a just policy, or pray a prayer for peace. Only when we tap into the imagination and creativity of the Spirit can we begin to embody the reality of God that is here waiting to be shared and lived into.

This is our hope as an office. To witness to the story we’ve been given and grafted into by Christ. To recognize the areas of our country and world where this witness and promise of God’s alternative reality can make a difference, and pray that our work is not in vain.

May we learn to strip off the armor that limits our hope and shrouds our vision. And may we remember that we are clothed in Christ, the one who renews our mind and spirit to be courageous disciples who have no need of any armor but the Spirit of the Lord that goes with us.


-Bryan Hanger

‘I knew that we would all be kindred spirits’

–Blogging from the Church of the Brethren Clergy Women’s Retreat

“I knew that we would all be kindred spirits,” said our worship leader tonight. She gave a presentation on a recent trip to the island of Iona, and said she had been looking forward to this Clergy Women’s Retreat while there and had prayed for the women who would come to this retreat. She brought small stones from Iona to give to each participant.

I looked around the room and thought, are we in fact all kindred spirits?

One might assume that a gathering of Brethren clergy women would, for the most part, be homogenous. But a statistician could find a lot of differentiation among us. This group could easily be “sliced and diced” in a number of ways.

We could be grouped by European or African or Native American or Asian ancestry–which may not all be apparent from our skin tones or accents or names.

If grouped by age or generation, differences would quickly become apparent, variations of culture and lifestyle assumptions would emerge in the baby boomers as opposed to the Gen Xers, for example.

There are women here with decades of experience in pastoral or other forms of ministry. And there are the newly licensed, and some who have been in ministry for only a couple of years or less.

There are extroverts and introverts, artists and writers, academics and administrators, preachers and counselors, chaplains and teachers.

Women have come here from very different geographical places, from the east, the south, the west, the midwest, the mountain states. Each of those settings has its own cultural and political and theological geography–and a varying scale of welcome for women in church leadership.

The group includes women doing ministry in the large metropolises of Chicago, greater Los Angeles, D.C. It also includes women serving in rural settings, where the only way to get to church might be by gravel road.

Some have been in the Church of the Brethren all their lives. Some are brand new to the denomination.

Are we kindred spirits? At one level, I believe so. In Ephesians 4 it is called “the calling with which you have been called.” All called to ministry, all answering God’s call in one way or another. That’s how the women in this gathering are kin, and that is the place our spirits meet.

–Cheryl Brumbaugh-Cayford
Director of News Services